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Innovating e-Learning 2007 beats the record

Ros Smith
Last modified 13 Jun, 2007
Published 12 Jun, 2007
The JISC online conference, Innovating e-Learning 2007, has already beaten targets set by last year’s conference.

Over 400 separate responses were made on the first day of Theme 1 – Institutional Transformation – and this process is still underway. The words of one delegate from Perth in Western Australia capture the energy and enthusiasm of the opening day:

” Here to absorb, share and challenge my own ideas on change, technology and what happens when you challenge conventional ways of professional development. I'm looking forward to the next few days.”

Alun Hughes, chair of the JISC Learning and Teaching Committee, opened proceedings by pointing out how many levels of meaning ‘transformation’ has now acquired. And just to reinforce the breadth of the term, some of the debate took place ‘in-world’ in an innovative Second Life session, in which a number of delegates debated the inherent possibilities of this virtual space for teaching, learning and research.

Back in the ‘real world’, the keynote by Professor Terry Mayes, Groundhog Day Again explored how revolutions take shape, noting that they usually creep up on you ‘without you noticing when things really changed.’ But like the protagonist in the film ‘Groundhog Day’, Terry suggested we can only break free from a cycle of raised expectation, followed by disappointment, when we acknowledge the real nature of learning, pointing out that that ‘students’ learning cannot be attributed to the explanations and feedback that tutors provide. Instead, the best learning results from encouraging the learners to try their own explanations.’

Much discussion then occurred around the concept of ‘horizontal learning’, introduced by Terry in the accompanying paper, in which learners engage in an interaction about their learning at the same time as learning the subject.

In many ways illustrative of this process, delegates moved between the conference sessions, contributing to many other lines of thought by carrying ideas with them from their first choice session to the next. Thus, some of the outcomes of the second keynote on Institutional Transformation through ICT, led by Dr Mike Docker from the Sixth Form College, Farnborough, crossed over with the discussions in Session 1, Understanding the Prospects for Transformation, led by Dr David Nicol from University of Strathclyde and Dr Steve Draper, University of Glasgow.

Both sessions covered the embedding of transformational approaches to assessment – from using the principles of enhancing learner self-regulation, formulated by Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick, to the use and management of dedicated e-assessment centres. Delegates reflected on methods of assessing higher order thinking online, the role of awarding bodies, and the value of funding as a driver for change. All were agreed about one thing though: the importance of assessment practices in leveraging change.

This conference is by no means a passive experience. Session 2, It takes a bit of imagination, and Session 4, Design for Learning, both offer a workshop approach to exploring different approaches to institutional transformation, while Session 5 sets delegates a challenge - to find connections between initiatives for institutional transformation, including the SFC Transformation Programme, the HEFCE e-Learning Strategy and the Higher Education Pathfinder Programme. All three have attracted a lively following.

The Institutional Transformation In Context area also offers a wealth of engaging and interactive experiences. Submissions under the Open call are located in this section, which this year included opportunities to engage in a wiki on using communities of practice to develop educational technology literacy, and Flash demonstrations of PEDESTAL, the institutional teaching and learning repository service.

But perhaps the fastest moving session on Day 1 was Session 4, Personal Technologies and the Future of Learning, in which Helen Beetham, JISC consultant, and James Clay, ILT and Learning Gateway manager at Gloucestershire College, explored with delegates some hotly contested debates around Web 2.0 services, mobile learning and the empowerment of learners.

At the heart of these discussions were the outcomes of Phase 1 of the JISC learner experiences of e-learning theme [] and projects now underway in Phase 2 []

The second theme, Supporting Lifelong Learning, commences on Wednesday 13 June.


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